Testing & Results
Choosing the right headphones or gaming headset is a very personal quest. A great experience for person #1 may be a different experience for person #2 and gets even more convoluted when you have an eclectic taste in music. There is a lot of hype surrounding top brands and price is not always a good indicator of performance. I’m not an audiophile or purist by any means but I am very keen on getting a good audio experience and I insist on comfort too.
I’ll try to be as descriptive as possible and give answers to any questions you may have, but the best way to tell if you like how this headset performs, sounds and feels would be to try them out for yourself if at all possible.
I used AudioCheck.net’s sound tests to check frequency response, dynamic range, sound quality, driver matching, wiring, binaural signal, and full music playback on my PC. When using the tests on AudioCheck.net it is advisable to first download the samples to your computer and play them in a good media player. Some of the tests can be skewed by the audio compression of the online version. For mobile music/gaming I paired the SteelSeries Siberia Elite Gaming Headset with my Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone. I also tested the headset in other usage scenarios such as Gaming and watching Movies/TV shows on my PC for extended periods of time to gauge comfort and wearability.
I generally listen to Urban / Alternative styles of music such as Dance, Dubstep, Drum and Bass, Rap and HipHop and UK Grime. These genres tend to be very heavy on the bassline front, and I personally prefer bass that can be felt rather than heard. You also get a fantastic mixture of instrument sounds and samples within these genres too, as the artists and producers are more willing to play and experiment with sound, more so than your average pop icon or recording artist would.
- SteelSeries USB Soundcard V2
ASUS Z87I-PRO On-board Realtek ALC1150 8-Channel High Definition Audio
- Logitech Desktop PC Sound-system
- Samsung Galaxy S3 Smartphone
Comparison Products: V-Moda Crossfade M100 Headphones + ASUS ROG Vulcan ANC Gaming Headset.
Sound Quality: The SteelSeries Siberia Elite Gaming Headset is very impressive right across the board. They are far superior to the ASUS ROG Vulcans but fall short of the sound quality and range of the V-MODA Crossfade M100 headphones. It might be important to note that the Crossfade M100’s are an exceptional set of headphones and also cost $100 more. The sound quality and range was very noticeable when switching between the USB Soundcard V2 and the Realtek on-board sound of my motherboard. The USB sound card offers acceptable performance but I found the on-board Realtek solution much more impressive in terms of volume and depth and full range response. The sound remained very clean throughout, with only very minor distortion experienced during low frequency testing.
Frequency response and Dynamic Range: Looking at the specifications you will see that the SteelSeries Siberia Elite Gaming Headset have a frequency response of 16Hz ~ 28kHz. While this is not the most overwhelming specification for an expensive headset it is above average. The dual neodymium magnet 50mm speaker drivers reproduce sound very well with plenty of volume range and impressive bass response.
Bass at frequencies below 20Hz, as with frequencies above 16kHz are generally not audible to the average human ear. The Siberia Elite Gaming Headset performed well in the low frequency sound tests, with response noticeable slightly distorted at the 10Hz starting point and cleaned up somewhere between the 30Hz~40Hz tone and upwards. The low frequency tests produce a tinnitus inducing low pressure pulse wave – Don’t do this test too loud or for too long as you will cause damage to your hearing.
The high frequency tests were met by a roadblock between 15kHz and 16kHz, somewhat short of the specifications. There is more than one limiting factor that can account for the high frequency upper limit, such as; 1) Upper hearing limit of test subject (Human factor). 2) Sound card is prone to aliasing (Reproduction factor) or 3) Frequency response of headphones may not be correct (Specifications factor). In general the upper human hearing limit is somewhere between 15~20kHz which tends to deteriorate with age. Even so, sounds at these frequencies are so piercing that you wouldn’t want prolonged exposure anyway.
Binaural Testing: Binaural testing shows the headphone’s ability to recreate the exact position of sound. To test this, a recording of sound is taken with a microphone inside your ear, where the sound actually reaches you. Playing this back through good headphones, which rest very closely to the area where the sound was recorded, should make it sound extremely realistic. This test doesn’t work with regular speakers because of their positioning relative to your ears. Suffice to say, the SteelSeries Siberia Elite Gaming Headset performed flawlessly during the binaural testing.
Extended Playback and Comfort: The SteelSeries Siberia Elite Gaming Headset weighs slightly more than the ASUS ROG Vulcan headset (400g vs 325g) which is not surprising considering the metal construction. The Clamping force is moderate to strong but is less noticeable over time. The ear pads and headband are very soft and comfortable. There is no Active Noise Cancellation with the Siberia Elite Gaming Headset but once the speakers start pumping they do a fair job of blocking out most exterior sound just as they are. There is very little sound leakage from the ear cups even when up close and at full volume so you won’t need to worry about disturbing others. This all adds up to a comfortable and pleasurable listening experience, but it would be better with slightly less clamping force.
Overall impressions: I have been very impressed by the performance of the SteelSeries Siberia Elite Gaming Headset. They bring great depth and life to music, movies and of course games across a range of devices. The sound quality out of the box was impressive but for a more immersive experience you will want to tweak and create some custom EQ’s that suit your preferences. I was left wanting more from the included USB sound card which means I will just have to do without the novelty of the LED illuminations.